Demonstrators march in Charlottetown against anti-black racism in wake of George Floyd's death

Demonstrators march in Charlottetown against anti-black racism in wake of George Floyd's death

Thousands marched through the streets of Charlottetown in solidarity with demonstrators across Canada and the U.S., demanding justice and racial equality following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

The demonstration has remained peaceful even as some protests in Canada and the U.S. have become violent in recent days.

Before the march, demonstrators were encouraged by the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. to dress in black in a gesture of solidarity.

Keeping COVID-19 health concerns in mind, demonstrators were also reminded to wear masks and gloves as well as to remain six feet apart from each other.

"I'm here to march," said demonstrator Tara Reeves.

"It's been hard, I can't lie. It's been a real emotional roller-coaster, you know, since the news broke of George Floyd. Another name we've had to add on the back of the T-shirt that we're all wearing," she said.

"We need to address the systemic racism and the genocide that our country has been built on. It's bigger than one more black person being murdered by the police."

Whether Islanders know it or not, Reeves said racism exists on Prince Edward Island.

Cody MacKay/CBC
Cody MacKay/CBC
Cody MacKay/CBC
Cody MacKay/CBC

"We wake up in this skin every single day and we are discriminated against every single day," she said. "This is a life or death situation."

Robbie Robinson, an American citizen who attended the march with his wife and five-year-old son, said racial injustice spills across borders.

"The best thing I can do is just push for change," Robinson said.

"I wanted him to understand that, you know, we are going to do everything we can do in our control to fight for his human right to walk around, you know, not in fear — to have an experience with law enforcement anywhere in the world and leave, come home."

Cody MacKay/CBC
Cody MacKay/CBC
Cody MacKay/CBC
Cody MacKay/CBC

After marching through the city's streets, demonstrators poured into Rochford Square where organizers addressed the crowd and paused for a moment of silence in memory of 29-year-old Toronto woman Regis Korchinski-Paquet — who fell 24 storeys from a balcony — while police were on scene and Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician from Kentucky who was shot eight times by narcotics detectives who knocked down her front door in March. Today would have been Taylor's 27th birthday.

Following the moment of silence, the phrase "No justice, no peace," was cried out by those gathered in the crowd.

"I know we are tired. We are still grieving," one organizer said to the crowd.

"But we must take action and end the cycle of oppression."

He urged non-black allies to use what privilege they have to create change, overturn racist laws and "stop turning a blind eye toward oppression."

Another organizer began by speaking to the Island's black community, "Rise up. Put your head high and stand tall because we deserve better."

She then turned to the non-black allies in the crowd.

"Where you can all start from is, don't touch our hair," she said, "Do not touch our bodies without consent. Do not ask to touch our bodies. Please stop touching our hair."

Education reform, curriculum reform, job security for black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) and improved access to health care. These are just some areas in desperate need of change, said Black Cultural Society of P.E.I.'s president Tamara Steele.

"You can't start the race 200-metres ahead of us and expect us to catch up," she said. "P.E.I.'s small enough, we can do this. We can make this change. We can do this if we all stand together.

"We don't want to be better than you," she said to the non-black allies in the crowd.

"We don't want more than you. We want equity."

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